Note: Typically we use this blog space to tell you about projects of our own. With this blog entry however, it is our goal to give an opinion and observations on a piece of work that we admire/want to talk about. -KF
When listening/watching/experiencing anything put out by the Australian musical powerhouse that is Tame Impala, psychedelia is always guaranteed. The neo-pseychedleic rock (or “epiphany pop” if you ask them) band has been making waves that have only gotten bigger with each release since their first studio album Innerspeaker in 2010. Oddball imagery, wildly colorful animation and some symbolic (but not necessarily subtle) sexual innuendo has been the focus of some of their music videos before. With the official video for “The Less I Know The Better” we get a dose of all of that. But we’re also treated to a plot about a high school boy who pines for a female classmate, which makes sense when considering the lyrics. We’ve seen something similar in the video for “Mind Mischief”. A more controversial relationship, that video showed a young male student in a relationship with his female teacher.
The track “The Less I Know the Better”, off of the band’s third studio album Currents, is undeniably one the grooviest songs they’ve ever recorded, and is a stand out on the record. The music video begins by introducing us to the main characters, a high school Boy and Girl. The boy runs in gym class while the girl stretches by the bleachers, very obviously trying to get the boy to look at her. Our point of view moves through the interior of an impossibly huge locker, one that’s sprinkled with trinkets of foreshadowing. We travel through the slots in the metal door, and the two classmates are engaged in an act their parents would probably not approve of. The sound design here is combining the pleasurable with the with the primitive. The girl’s heavy breathing and a twinkling chime are heard over a rumbling animalistic bellow. The boy looks up and an unsettling distorted voice comes from his mouth saying “I love you”. The girl has no reply to this, only a sensual gaze into the camera as the track begins.
The girl separates from the boy. From here onward she’s mainly part of dance number set pieces, taunting him and relishing in the fact that he will never be with her. The lyrics explicitly mention people named “Heather” and “Trevor”. Frontman (make that mastermind behind Tame Impala) Kevin Parker sings, “She was holding hands with Trevor, not the greatest feeling ever”. Here, Trevor is personified as a slam dunking, back flipping, girl stealing, gorilla suited figure in a basketball jersey that reads “Trevor” on the back. This character works as the antagonist, a threatening masculine force masquerading as a team mascot; the personification of the handsome athletic guy who always gets the girl before anyone else can. The video takes advantage of some imagery that’s referential to King Kong, such as a giant gorilla hand opening up and the girl gladly jumping into the massive palm, anxious to be carried away by “Trevor”. The girl also mouths the lyrics while standing defiantly on the King Kong hand, clinging to a giant black middle finger that’s extended and directed right at us.
The feeling of missed opportunity one can feel when they’re young and hopelessly infatuated with someone is what this video executes most successfully. There are shots of the boy being helplessly wrapped up in ribbon, covering his eyes as he gazes in horror at the girl galavanting with the gorilla. We very clearly see the young man’s struggle. He’s the only one sitting in an auditorium while the girl frolics on stage with Trevor. All he can do is watch while the girl hangs around with some “ape”.
At one point the boy runs into a bathroom and vomits into a toilet. His expulsion comes out blood red, and the next scene we’re transported into is a black abyss. The red goo falls onto an invisible shape of a woman, colors drizzle and swirl to reveal her entire form. This is done with some impressive 3D animation (to be honest, I don’t know for a fact it’s animated. It’s done so well that I’m questioning it still) which paves the way for the more scribbly 2D collage of images that take over toward the end of the video. The transition into this frenetic animation is a welcome one in which images from the video collide to into a sketchy day-glo pastiche.
As far as Tame Impala music videos go, I think this is one of their best. While the video for Let It Happen (also from Currents) was imaginative and still delightfully trippy, it was not nearly as effective or memorable as this in my opinion. There’s a crudeness to the metaphor and an inherent silliness to the execution here. The introduction of Trevor was unexpected, and making him into something that’s not necessarily threatening at first glance was a fun perspective to see this story from. There’s an almost puppet-like physicality and presentation in some of the more elaborate scenes. Imagine having a nightmare about your high school crush and the scary part is a gorilla, and some of the sets were borrowed and reworked from Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
You can watch “The Less I Know The Better” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBzrzS1Ag_g